I'm what you might call a second-generation marketer. My father started his professional marketing career with Data Terminal Systems back in 1974 -- before I was even born. As such, he has certain "old school" sensibilities about the theory and profession of marketing.
For example, my father still professes that there is value in buying booths at trade shows, despite (or perhaps in spite of) people telling him that it's a dying practice. So I asked him why. He told me he keeps buying booths because of Pez.
"Pez?" I asked.
"Pez," he said. Then, as is characteristic of men of a certain age, he launched into a story.
He told me that during every conference, he stocks an enormous number of Pez dispensers at his booth. His company buys them by the gross. All kinds: big ones, little ones, ones shaped like cartoon characters, ones with sports team logos... a smorgasbord of Pez. And at conferences, he stands in front of his booth and asks passers-by if they've gotten their Pez yet.
"Well no, I haven't," they say. "But what does Pez have to do with your product?"
"Absolutely nothing," my father says, "apart from the fact that after I gave you this Pez, you asked about my product. Would you like to learn more about it?"
Bam. Just like that.
Why does Pez work?
1. It's something small. Passers-by aren't overwhelmed by Pez, and they instantly recognize the full value of it (even if that value is relatively minor).
2. It's something unexpected. No one can deny the joy of unexpected free candy.
3. It's a universal good. Who doesn't like Pez, after all?
4. Conversion feels good. This is the big one. Because my father incorporates a little bit of humor into the conversion process (and you should hear him deliver this line; I know where I got my unerring sense of comedic timing), there is less friction between introduction and engagement. After all, the passer-by was the first person to mention the product, not my father.
What does this have to do with video?
My dad might not agree that it is possible to recreate the Pez experience online, but I think it is. The problem in doing so is constructing a platform where you can have a direct dialogue with the person you're trying to reach. There are lots of ways to do this -- email is one, blogs another, social media a third, each with its own intrinsic benefits and detriments.
But in order to inspire this dialogue, you need something that is small, unexpected, universally good, and frictionless. (I wish those four words made a cool acronym; SUUGF just doesn't do it for me.) And what better way to create this trigger than with video? Take a short, relaxed, 30-second video about your company's new product in your email newsletter, for example:
1. It's something small. Web video is all over the place. People consume it more readily than any other kind of content, and 30 seconds of video is hardly a big time investment.
2. It (can be) something unexpected. You have to get creative about your content. If you think your prospects expect you to deliver some drab 30-second spiel about your product, throw them a curve and tell them why they shouldn't buy it. ("It makes XYZ process way too easy, and you'll never be able to handle the influx of revenue it will generate," for example.)
3. It's a universal good. Granted, there are a lot of unwatchable videos out there on the Interwebs. But people understand that video is a much more efficient way to consume information, and are therefore much more likely to see the value in your proposition. (A universally good thing.)
4. Conversion feels good. Again, you might have to get creative here, but incorporating calls to action that flow naturally from the content of the video is a great way to reduce friction. And if you could reduce friction in the process of converting a random stranger into an interested prospect, why wouldn't you?
In the end, my father's way of marketing and mine aren't all that different. You need to stand out to engage with people, and the process of engagement needs to be fluid and natural -- or if not natural, at least entertaining.